Sunday, July 23, 2006

"... and cabbages and kings."

Some people in Minnesota get it. Education officials and company spokesmen around the country who seem to want schools to train employable technicians, rather than to educate students, have long hammered away at the notion of compelling schools to offer more and tougher math and science courses as student requirements. Minnesota’s leaders were no different.

But a statewide assessment of interests was recently given to over 91,000 people in Minnesota. The surprising aspect is who were surveyed. Not college and university personnel so fond of telling public schools what they “should do.” Not politicians decrying America’s educational preparedness for the Twenty-first Century. Not pundits and journalists critical of schools and society. Not employers looking to hire technicians already trained to do their company’s work. and not school administrators, nor even parents.

The assessment was given to more than 91,000 eighth and tenth graders! Minnesota actually asked students about their interests! Amazing. And they found that “only” eleven percent of eighth graders and twenty-one percent of eleventh graders have enough interest “to make them suitable candidates for careers in math, science, and technology.”

State officials are reported as “disturbed by the news.” I do not see why.

Do we really think that more than twenty-one percent of any class should go into advanced math, science, and technology? Even in the foggy future of the Twenty-first Century?

Come on, Minnesota officials. Think about it. The interest assessment shows twenty-one out of every one hundred sophomores are interested in math and science careers. That seems like a large number to me. What if twenty-one of every one hundred students were interested in being a poet? Would that seem like a large number then?

There are seventy-nine Minnesota students out of each one hundred who, instead of math and science, are interested in art history, or home economics, or auto mechanics, or literature, acting, history, psychology, culinary arts, sculpture and painting, geography, house painting, music, carpentry, writing, fashion design, theology, military service, ceramics, cooking, sales, journalism, film making, even politics. Or they are interested in other fields not listed, fields of study which society hopes some students will pursue every year.

Do the Minnesota officials reported as “disturbed by the news” that “only” twenty-one percent are interested in science and technology really think students should abandon their interests in favor of more tough math and science courses and careers? Society in general can’t really think it believes that. Someone tell the “disturbed” officials in Minnesota, most of whom, I’ll wager, are not math or science whizzes.

So, applaud whoever in Minnesota gave the interest assessment. They asked the right people the right questions. Now, let’s listen! And spread the word.

Schools in America should be designed to educate all students according to each of their interests, abilities, and needs. “Tougher” math and science courses and careers simply do not fit everyone. Just ask the students. Minnesota did.

~ ~

Julius Caesar wrote, “Omnia Gaulia est divisa in partes tres.” He never knew the Bush League. All “gall” is not divided into three parts, but seems concentrated in far more than three of those bozos. (O.K. so I am showing off that I remember sophomore Latin and can make a bilingual pun.)

Anyway, after five and half years of turning down invitations to speak before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Bush spoke before the group the other day. I caught the entire speech on C-Span and was uncomfortable. His condescending tone and the Bush speechwriter’s superficial recounting of Black history for the President to read were bad enough. No wonder the audience seemed mostly polite but slightly insulted.

The gall of the President was especially apparent, however, when he leaned forward over the rostrum, smirked, and said, as if he were teaching a lesson to a child, “For too long our party wrote off the African-American vote, and for too long the African-American vote has written off the Republican Party.” The “vote.” Not the people. Their votes.

That is what he said after five and a half years of turning down an invitation to speak and after five and a half years of the Bush League politicians doing almost nothing for the poor among the Blacks or the homeless. This after the Bush League henchmen successfully disenfranchised thousands of Black voters in Florida in 2000. And, most recently, after the Bush League nearly ignored those most in need of help from the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina. But now, after those five and a half years, the Bush handlers have the gall to tell him to accept the invitation to speak, and Bush says, in effect, “It has been too long.”

A reporter asked the presidential press secretary, Tony Snow, why Bush accepted this year. And Snow said, “Because he wanted to.” Think about that.

The answer must mean that in previous years, Bush did NOT want to.

A follow-up question ought to have been, “Why did he want to speak to the NAACP convention this year, but not in previous years?” It did not need to be asked, however, for anyone who understands what the answer, “Because he wanted to,” means also knows why he didn’t want to before now. And he didn’t really “want to” this year, you can be sure. That’s another fib.

But this is an election year, and polls indicate that the Bush League needs every vote they can muster, including the scant four percent Presidential approval bunch among the Black community. So his handlers sent Bush groveling, with self-deprecating humor, a condescending tone, and a re-cap of Black history complete with statements of how well the race has prevailed! Of all the gall!

~ ~

People look at both actions and words as clues to character. The inadvertent open mic conversation between a cud-chewing Bush and his lap dog British Prime Minister Blair was certainly revealing of character at the recent G-8 summit conference. If ever in history there was a better example of the cluelessness of a man than that idiotic exchange between two world leaders, I don’t know what it might be.

Never mind the profanity. Nor the remarks about speakers who talk too long. Never mind the inane remarks about the sweater gift. Forget the unwanted and crass back rub Bush had given to a surprised and insulted female head of Germany.

Consider just one revealing example from the overheard drivel. Bush tells the Brit that “they” (others) need to call Kofi Anan at the UN and get him to do something about the situation between Israel and Lebanon.

Aren’t Great Britain and America two nations who most certainly are a part of “they”? Not only that, but the remark that others, “they,” should get the UN to do something comes after years of Bush deprecating the usefulness of the United Nations. The guy not only has gall, he is clueless.

~ ~

The New York TIMES reports that there were 14,338 civilians killed in Iraq in the first half of this year. There were more than 100 a day killed in June. The paper also reports that Iraqi women have lost some of the freedoms they used to have. There are regular kidnappings of citizens by insurgents for ransom. And more ugliness, according to the TIMES report.

One could go on to recount the destruction of Iraqi infrastructure, homes, and businesses. One might also include statistics about the number of Americans killed and the thousands mentally and physically wounded who will never be able to return to the way of life they led before the Bush League maneuvered America into accepting an invasion of a country that posed no immediate threat.

Perhaps the staggering war costs, immense damage, and terrible casualty numbers, growing daily, are why the Bush League politicians and their puppet president no longer chant the daily mantra of a year ago: “Iraq and the world are better off than before we invaded.” Remember that crap?

~ ~


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments on the Minnesota students are interesting. Shouldn't we make some studies required?

7/24/2006 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who should decide what is required of every student? Is there enough time to teach all students everything a school ought to offer as choices for various interests? It gets complicated, playing educational god.

7/24/2006 6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hadn't hought of that, but you are right. They haven't been saying lately that Iraq is better iff than before we invaded. The world isn't either, is it?

7/25/2006 4:33 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

You ask a good question about required studies, anonymous #1.

There are two extreme positions on required courses and many in between. Few argue that elementary youngsters all need to be taught reading, writing, arithmetic, for example.

But by high school years, there is controversy. There are those who believe that by then students are ready to pursue their own talents and interests and ought ot be allowed to select their own curriculum. And there are those at the opposite extreme who think schools need to indoctrinate all students with the same bits of information to the point of recall on tests.

I always chuckle at the joke, not wholly inaccurate, that says when a high school course becomes irrelevant, the school will want to make it required.

The middle ground usually prevails. Those people say there should be a core of required courses and many choices for students to make according to individual abilities, interests, and needs. The problem, obviously, is deciding which subjects belong where. And how many are "many" choices? How can kids schedule both requirements and electives in sufficient numbers? Etc.

Advocates of testing generally come down on the side of more requirements. It is as if they think they believe that all students should know the same things.

But think about that. What human knowlege would be lost if we scheduled all kids to take the same few subjects, and insist the kids all learn them to the point of recall on tests? That gets to the second anonymous' question.

Thanks, both of you, for the blog visits and questions.

And anonymous #3, thanks for the comment. I agree, the world today is not better off. I suppose we need to wait to see how it all plays out, but it is hard to believe the situation will improve to the point that the world will say the damage, costs, and human lives lost were worth it and that the world will then be better off. (We could discuss the real meaning of "better off," too.)


7/26/2006 6:05 PM  
Anonymous the three eyed pirate said...

And the mid-east situation gets worse each hour! who are these people saying it is improving? spread your words.

7/27/2006 2:23 PM  
Blogger The Pawn said...

Thanks for the post on my blog.

In my past experiences in school I have had math and science crammed down my throat since junior high. Math and science courses were by far the hardest and I am part of that 21% that is going into the field of technology. Schools should be offering a wider range of course options to students especially in high school. I understand the need to teach students math and science and whatnot, but it really has become overkill in my experiences.

7/28/2006 6:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The present administration has divided the nation in ways not seen since the worst months of Viet Nam. If we still had a draft, there would be street demonstrations comparable to those times. We may see them, anyway, though the Bushies have a tighter grip on the media than LBJ ever had. So the public is still mostly in the dark. Keep writing.

7/29/2006 7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree totally with the previous comment. Wake up, America.

7/30/2006 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work » » »

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